Monday, December 08, 2008

There's Only Now, There's Only Here

I’ve learned quite a lot from my weekly book club at MCCT. We worked our way, chapter by chapter, through Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It wasn’t an easy read and there have been many challenging and new ideas. I’ve learned that not only am I not my ego but neither am I my past or my future. Unless I make this choice. Who I am truly exists only in the present and that is what I like to think of as true faith. I say this because the antithesis of faith is not doubt (as some would have us believe) but rather fear and anxiety. These emotions can not exist in the present.

Fear and anxiety, as Jesus noted when He said to mediate on the lilies in the field and the birds of the air, only exist in the future or the past. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Christ also modeled this focus on the present in His life. Note how he dealt with the present when he prayed “give us this day our daily bread.” The future is a conceptual place that we leave up to God to manage. (Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.) Also notice how he praised Mary (treasuring the moment) over Martha (worrying about the future).

As many of you know, I’ve been in Kansas with my family for the Thanksgiving holidays and I spent a great deal of time with both my nephew (almost a year old) and maternal grandmother. She’s not unlike a child these days due to Alzheimer’s disease. This time with them has made me reflect on how Jesus suggested we become “like little children” we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ("I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.") As with everything else he said, this was meant to be taken metaphorically. My nephew and (now) my grandma mostly live in the present and it really changes how one operates. There is always a wonder, a surprise of first-time experiences.

Of course the advantage we as adults have over children is the gift of perspective. When my nephew is upset, it is the end of his world. He becomes very emotional. I could say my grandmother expresses her frustrations in much the same way. Then later, it’s all forgotten and they have moved on. Not only do we have the ability to judge life events through the filter of our experiences and perspective, but if we choose to be aware of our reactions, we can also choose to how to react.

Eckhart points out we only experience now, not future/past. Things only happen in the now. As the Bon Jovi song goes "It's my life, it's now or never." This is why physical activity, dancing and music are some of my favourite activities. To do them really well, one must be present. During my recent breakup, being present, dealing with the reality of what is (instead of what should be, or could of been or was) really made all the difference. We can learn from our past without obessing or focusing on it because it's a moot issue. And as far as the future goes, it doesn't exist beyond thought (which ironically can only be thought about in the present).

So I'm encouraging you on your day today to take time to "smell the roses." Meditate. Breathe. Experience the now. Listen with your whole being. Be present.


Jolie said...

Good post! I think I've mastered the part about not being my ego. I think that's one reason why I do really well in service jobs doing menial tasks. I check my ego at the door and just get on with it. Mom always had a great analogy about this. There was a janitor sort of person at one of the school's she taught in. The school had him put up a wall, take down the wall and then put it back up again. He complied to all requests pleasantly. When asked about it, he's reply was "I put the f-ing wall up or take the f-ing wall down, it's all in a day's work". That has helped me a lot. In my head I utter "I take put the f-ing wall up..." and just get on with life. :)

Living in the present has taken me much much longer. I'm starting to get better at this and I know when I'm holding onto the past. One day I will know how to let that past go.

Danifesto said...

From my cousin-in-law: ""Let's get down and dirty with it...why not?! Even though our DNA is 99% similar to chimpanzees, they lack this orbito-frontal cortex. Which means, even though they can wield tools and learn to sign, they are STILL not able to process deep, logical thought that we were created to do. That is the part that shuts off when we shift into fear (which is where we are when we are any where other than the present). In fact, when in this fear state (past or future), we begin to use our primitive brain, our "reptilian" brain. Our amygdalas engage (which then controls all other neurological functions) and we fall victim to basic survival. So think about it!When we choose to exist anywhere other than the present, it actually takes us out of exactly what it is to be human, that very essence in us that knows we exist and can really, deeply understand who we are and what our place is in the universe. From my point of view, this is what God meant when he created us in his image -- the ability to be FULLY PRESENT. WOW. Soooo deep for me.That autopilot is our primitive brain. It "takes over" the rest of our brain and directs all other neurological functions. So we want to stay out of it. But if do begin to go there (which we usually do hundreds of times each day), the simplest way to shift back is through breathing. Deep, focused breathing. We can also do it through exercise and glucose, but breathing is free and it's ALWAYS available. So practice, practice, practice. And when you need it, it will be there for you. That's my wisdom for today."